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Urban Areas: Empty Property

Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 10th July 2013.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Labour, Vale of Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

(1) what progress has been made on the Portas Review recommendation to encourage banks with empty high street properties to either administer or sell such assets;

(2) what progress has been made on the Portas Review recommendation to empower local authorities to step in when landlords are negligent with new empty shop management orders;

(3) what progress has been made on the Portas Review recommendation to persuade local authorities to use compulsory purchase orders to encourage the redevelopment of key high street retail space.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister for Housing

In the Government's response to the Portas review in March 2012, we recognised the importance of these recommendations and set out our position.

Empty properties can visibly bring down the attractiveness and prosperity of a high street but may reflect the changing nature of the high street. A property may be empty on account of various issues, not least lack of interest from a suitable tenant. Punitive measures to force landlords to lease their properties would not be effective in creating a sustainable high street and would risk interfering with fundamental private property rights.

We remain of the view that local authorities have sufficient powers to act to get property back into use. In addition to their compulsory purchase powers, local authorities can use section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act to take action to require land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of an area.

The Government has also committed £235 million of direct funding, to help local authorities, housing associations and community groups tackle the most problematic empty properties, which would not otherwise come back into use. The last funding round had a particular emphasis on refurbishing former commercial and high street properties.

The Future High Streets Forum was established in March 2013, and brings together leaders across retail, property and business to better understand the competition faced by town centres across the country and drive forward new ideas and policies.

An industry-led taskforce has been established to explore distressed commercial property and its causes. This is due to publish its report in the autumn.

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